A rich selection of documentaries aimed at relentlessly curious minds. Presented by Ashley John-Baptiste, this twice weekly podcast replaces the Radio 4 Documentary of the Week.


  • Reaction Time

    Reaction Time

    14/02/2016 Duración: 31min

    "Your breasts look fantastic in that dress." From abysmal chat-up lines like this, to love at first sight in Victoria Train Station, BBC Radio Four listeners have some incredible relationship stories. Reaction Time broadcasts them to the nation, in a programme composed entirely of smartphone contributions from the public. BBC Radio Four shouted out for stories about love on social media - gave out the email address and received poignant, funny and downright odd tales - which have been crafted into a half-hour of dreadful dates, poignant memories and one incredible relationship that begins with a heart attack. Contributors simply recorded their two minute stories on their phone recorders - and emailed the sound file in. The contributor Narelle Lancaster, was called back and asked to record the script over her phone - so it's 100% listeners in a programme made on phones - a new way of creating a programme, and a unique platform for the wit and inventiveness of the BBC Radio 4 audien

  • Jarvis on McCullers

    Jarvis on McCullers

    09/02/2016 Duración: 30min

    The writing of Carson McCullers has perhaps never been as popular or acclaimed as that of contemporaries such as Harper Lee and Tennessee Williams, but nonetheless she remains one of the most remarkable and individual writers to come out of twentieth century America. She only wrote a few works, in large part because rheumatic fever left her paralysed in her left arm, and she was beset by ill health and alcoholism for many of her fifty years. Her writing style was enormously sensuous, filled with the heat, sounds and smells of the American south, and the characters who populated books like 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe', 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' and 'A Member of the Wedding' were most commonly troubled misfits. Her personal life was similarly idiosyncratic - the man she married twice committed suicide having tried to get her to do the same - though it is her very particular writing style, with a strong musicality drawn from the years she spent training as a classical pianist, that has made many of her

  • Gay Bombay

    Gay Bombay

    05/02/2016 Duración: 28min

    Why is homosexuality still illegal in the world's so-called largest democracy? In his celebrated family memoir 'And All is Said', historian Dr Zareer Masani made no bones about his own homosexuality and the problems it posed growing up in the India of the 1950s and '60s. Much seemed to have changed in the intervening half century. But with a renewed Hindu nationalism dominant in both political and cultural life, Zareer returns to Mumbai (formerly Bombay) to find out whether growing acceptance of gay rights is being put in reverse. Attempts were made in the recent past to overthrow an old colonial law making homosexuality a crime punishable by life imprisonment. The Delhi High Court held that this section of India's criminal law was unconstitutional; but that decision was overturned by India's Supreme Court two years ago. Zareer asks Justice Shah, who gave the earlier, landmark judgement decriminalising homosexuality, whether its liberal impact can really be reversed. He talks to the various gay and lesbia

  • Herland


    02/02/2016 Duración: 42min

    In 1915 women could neither vote, divorce nor work after marriage, yet in that same year the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman envisaged a revolutionary world populated entirely by women who were intelligent, resourceful and brave. Her great science fiction novel Herland tells the story of three men who crash land on an island where the men have died out; women reproduce by parthenogenesis. Until Gilman's book was published, most visions of utopia, though turning the world on its head, struggled to envisage a place where gender had changed. Fantastical machines could be imagined alongside marvellous advances in medicine and technology, but the idea of woman functioning fully in the new utopias was too much for many to imagine. In this programme the award winning science fiction writer Geoff Ryman uses Herland as a starting point to ask why it's been so had to imagine a world where gender dissolves. In the course of the programme he will write his own short story, avoiding the pitfalls that have s

  • Raising the Dead

    Raising the Dead

    26/01/2016 Duración: 28min

    For the past few decades music teacher and pianist Francesco Lotoro has been collecting music written in concentration camps from the Second World War. Francesco's life is entirely given over to recovering the creations of composers and performers, many of them Jewish, who died in the camps. A massive amount of music was written in camps. Classical music by established composers, but also songs, symphonies, sonatas, operas, lullabies, jazz riffs often scribbled on old sacks, toilet paper or scratched into mess tins. Francesco has discovered works by important composers as Hans Krasa, the Czech creator of the masterpiece 'Brundibar', as well as Viktor Ullmann and Gideon Klein - all killed by the Nazis in 1944, but writing music until the very end. Composer Adam Gorb is head of composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Working closely with the BBC Philharmonic, Adam travels to Italy to meet Francesco and together they pick through his 8000 piece archive, much of which has never been hear

  • Deciding Fast and Slow

    Deciding Fast and Slow

    22/01/2016 Duración: 29min

    What is it really like to make decisions affecting millions of people, knowing that a mistake might be pounced upon instantly and your career left in tatters? Government ministers face this challenge every day, and now under ever-rising pressures - not just 24 hour news, but also hugely influential social media and far stronger demand for more open and accountable decision-making. Elinor Goodman finds out from senior politicians, civil service leaders and their advisors how government ministers make decisions in the face of growing pressure from this instant all-pervasive information culture. How is the quality of decision-making affected when the demands for faster and more transparent policy-making become impossible to resist? As information circulates ever faster, can ministers actually keep up and make good decisions rather than succumb to the demands for swifter ones? Where once there was just a news cycle to manage, now there is a need for instant replies to all manner of questions and challenges about

  • Work Is a Four Letter Word

    Work Is a Four Letter Word

    08/01/2016 Duración: 58min

    Many of us have grown up with the belief that a strong work ethic is a positive thing, and that by contrast idle hands are the devil's playthings. According to Professor Andrew Hussey, that argument makes very little sense. Starting off with a line from the Cilla Black song 'Work is a Four Letter Word' he offers a powerful counter-argument by navigating the ideas of, among others, Bertrand Russell, John Ruskin and the Situationists in France, whose graffiti slogan 'Ne Travaillez Jamais' - never work - still appears regularly on Parisian streets. Hussey argues that the corporate culture in particular, born out of mid-20th Century America and built upon ideologies of work developed during the industrial revolution and on through to the development of the assembly line, can have a hugely corrosive impact on people's lives. The programme features the voices of workers from the 1930s through to the present day, describing working life in call centres where even a trip to the toilet is timed by management. Hussey d

  • Miles Jupp and the Plot Device

    Miles Jupp and the Plot Device

    05/01/2016 Duración: 28min

    How many stories are there in the world? According to William Wallace Cook, dime novelist and prolific producer of American pulp, there were precisely 1,462 and in Plotto, his "Master Book of All Plots", he anatomised them all in the service of struggling writers everywhere. Plotto, published in 1928, was nothing less than a manual of fictional devices, intended to sit on a writer's shelf between the dictionary and the thesaurus. Any writer stuck for inspiration could leaf through Plotto to discover plots like "a ventriloquist, captured by savages and threatened with death, makes an animal talk-and is given his freedom" or "a reporter, writing up an imaginary interview as fact, quotes a man as being in town on a certain day. The man, subsequently accused of a crime, establishes an alibi through an interview innocently faked by the reporter." Cook hailed his own book as "an invention which reduces literature to an exact science." But it was weird science. Nevertheless it worked for Cook, who churned out up to

  • Brain Tingles

    Brain Tingles

    29/12/2015 Duración: 31min

    The comedian and actor Isy Suttie sets out to explore how creativity is influenced by the mysterious and medically controversial phenomenon ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). Ever since she was little, Isy has been experiencing what she and her family describe as 'head squeezing' - a euphoric, incredibly relaxing version of goose bumps that starts around the head or face and travels around the body. A few years ago she realised not everyone got this feeling, that it's got a name - ASMR, or 'brain tingles'. There are hoards of online videos designed to trigger the feeling - often involving whispering women offering to book you a golfing holiday, test your eyes, wrap your gifts or tutor you on how to fold the perfect towel. Isy watches some ASMR videos with fellow comedian Joe Lycett, who's also experienced it, as has the journalist and musician Rhodri Marsden. Zoe Fothergill and Claire Tolan are two artists who've made work inspired by ASMR videos. Isy speaks to Charlotte Luke aka The ASMR Angel who

  • Hippy Internet - The Whole Earth Catalog

    Hippy Internet - The Whole Earth Catalog

    22/12/2015 Duración: 28min

    Sukhdev Sandhu travels to the epicentres of countercultural America in Woodstock and San Francisco to tell the story of a book of hippy philosophy that defined the 1960s and intimated how the internet would grow long before the web arrived. With Luc Sante, Eliot Weinberger, Kenneth Goldsmith, Ed Sanders, Lois Britton, and Fred Turner Producer: Tim Dee.

  • Inside Putins Russia: The Rosenberg Reports

    Inside Putin's Russia: The Rosenberg Reports

    20/12/2015 Duración: 17min

    How is Russian President Vladimir Putin perceived by the people in his own country? How is his intervention in Syria shaping the public mood? In a series of reports, Steve Rosenberg investigates Putin's Russia. From December 2015.

  • The Art of StarCraft

    The Art of StarCraft

    15/12/2015 Duración: 29min

    Stephen Evans goes deep into the Milky Way to look at the phenomenon of StarCraft and reveals how, in South Korea, it is more than just a computer game and is a key part of the rapidly growing multi-billion dollar world of esports. Worth over $620 million globally, with a worldwide audience of over 135 million people, esports are now big business, and in South Korea much of this thanks to the impact of certain computer game called StarCraft. StarCraft is essentially a sci-fi, military-based real-time strategy (RTS) game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released in 1998 and in the years since has become one of the world's most popular computer game titles shifting over 11 million copies and spawning a mainstream cultural sensation in South Korea where thousands of fans pack into stadiums across the country to watch the best StarCraft players in the world battle it out for big money stakes. From the importance of PC Bangs - the ubiquitous street corner hubs for gaming fans - to the mult

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